Call me the George Clooney of dwarves
Jimmy nesbitt tells stephen milton how he had a blast making the hobbit
While he's not exactly your typical dream idol, Jimmy Nesbitt's made a career from those twinkly eyes, that roguish allure. It's a winning combination he played on as an endearing womaniser in British sitcom, Cold Feet which ultimately made him a housewives' favourite and a somewhat attainable pin-up.
However, that was 15 years ago and Jimmy's pushing a half century now, has the magnetism matured favourably? Does he still have 'it'?
Judging by Ian McKellen's flirtatious behaviour on the set of Tolkien blockbuster, The Hobbit, it would seem so.
According to Nesbitt, the legendary Oscar-nominee, who returns as wizard Gandalf in the latest instalment of the Middle Earth saga, would see fit to regularly tease and provoke the Ballymena-reared actor, who true to form, was only happy to reciprocate his advances.
"Ian's a wicked man," Jimmy, who plays dwarf Bofur in the New Zealand-shot epic, laughs. "He's an awful flirt and I'm proud to say I think I got most of the attention out of all the dwarves... and rightly so.
"I don't think I ever laughed so much as I did around him, he is just a number-one class act."
Seems the same can be said for the entire crew and cast of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, a prequel to Tolkien's Lord of the Rings saga, which sees fabled hero Bilbo Baggins (Sherlock's Martin Freeman) aid a band of fearsome dwarf freedom fighters, led by Spooks star Richard Armitage and former Clinic actor, Dubliner Aidan Turner. Naturally, Nesbitt's Bofur is the wisecracker of the group, a role he ably assumed on set between takes. "I'd like to say that was me reflecting my character, being real method, like Daniel Day-Lewis, but fortunately I'm a bit of a 'messer' in my everyday persona and I immensely enjoyed having a laugh with these guys."
Nesbitt recently claimed his character Bofur was 'the George Clooney of dwarves', which ultimately points to the belief that he's the best-looking. Does he stand by that claim?
"Well now, I meant that in the way that he was 'the thinking woman's dwarf'.
"If we're talking looks wise, I'd say Dickie Armitage or young Aidan Turner would take that accolade.."
Married to former actress Sonia Forbes-Adam, mother of his two young daughters, Peggy (14) and Mary (10), the former Murphy's Law and Jekyll star shifted his family from London to New Zealand for the 18-month shoot.
Once commanding £75,000 per episode of Cold Feet, Nesbitt remains one of the most in-demand leading men on TV. But with The Hobbit arguably his first assault on Hollywood, does this signal a move from the small screen? "Not at all," he scoffs. "This was a once in a lifetime opportunity and you'd assume Hollywood would be the next logical step.
"However, British TV is in a golden era. There's such brilliant quality writing, the stuff they're churning out between BBC, ITV and Channel 4. I'd be very foolish to turn my back."
And indeed, on our own industry seeing as he starred in half dozen episodes of Ballykissangel in the mid-Nineties? "You're never going to get another Bally K," the actor grins. "Now that was top telly viewing, and what a time we had down in Avoca, pure madness. I'd love to do more work in Ireland again should the opportunity arise."
Has he heard of the excellent RTE crime epic, Love/Hate? It's maybe worth getting his agent on the call for the fourth season? "I haven't heard of it, I've been out of the loop for nearly two years now but quality Irish drama, just try and stop me. Will have to check it out."
Away from the cameras, Nesbitt admirably uses his fame for Wave, a charity set up to assist victims of the Troubles and help locate the IRA's unmarked graves.
"We're working to commission new excavations so families who have waited for four decades can finally put their loved ones to rest.
"The fear element is gone now so I hope this move pulls at the consciences of those who have information and come forward with it."
The Hobbit : An Unexpected Journey is in cinemas from tomorrow